Data Files - C Interview Questions and Answers

  1. How do you determine whether to use a stream function or a low-level function?

    Stream functions such as fread() and fwrite() are buffered and are more efficient when reading and writing text or binary data to files. You generally gain better performance by using stream functions rather than their unbuffered low-level counterparts such as read() and write().

    In multiuser environments, however, when files are typically shared and portions of files are continuously being locked, read from, written to, and unlocked, the stream functions do not perform as well as the low- level functions. This is because it is hard to buffer a shared file whose contents are constantly changing.

    Generally, you should always use buffered stream functions when accessing nonshared files, and you should always use the low-level functions when accessing shared files.

  2. How do you list files in a directory?

    Unfortunately, there is no built-in function provided in the C language such as dir_list() that would easily provide you with a list of all files in a particular directory. By utilizing some of C's built-in directory functions, however, you can write your own dir_list() function.

    First of all, the include file dos.h defines a structure named find_t, which represents the structure of the DOS file entry block. This structure holds the name, time, date, size, and attributes of a file. Second, your C compiler library contains the functions _dos_findfirst() and _dos_findnext(), which can be used to find the first or next file in a directory.

    The _dos_findfirst() function requires three arguments. The first argument is the file mask for the directory list. A mask of *.* would be used to list all files in the directory. The second argument is an attribute mask, defining which file attributes to search for. For instance, you might want to list only files with the Hidden or Directory attributes. The last argument of the _dos_findfirst() function is a pointer to the variable that is to hold the directory information (the find_t structure variable).

    The second function you will use is the _dos_findnext() function. Its only argument is a pointer to the find_t structure variable that you used in the _dos_findfirst() function. Using these two functions and the find_t structure, you can iterate through the directory on a disk and list each file in the directory. Here is the code to perform this task:

    #include <stdio.h>
    #include <direct.h>
    #include <dos.h>
    #include <malloc.h>
    #include <memory.h>
    #include <string.h>
    typedef struct find_t FILE_BLOCK;
    void main(void);
    void main(void)
         FILE_BLOCK f_block;      /* Define the find_t structure variable */
         int ret_code;     /* Define a variable to store the return codes */
         printf("\nDirectory listing of all files in this directory:\n\n");
         /* Use the "*.*" file mask and the 0xFF attribute mask to list
            all files in the directory, including system files, hidden
            files, and subdirectory names. */
         ret_code = _dos_findfirst("*.*", 0xFF, &f_block);
         /* The _dos_findfirst() function returns a 0 when it is successful
            and has found a valid filename in the directory. */
         while (ret_code == 0)
              /* Print the file's name */
              /* Use the _dos_findnext() function to look
                 for the next file in the directory. */
              ret_code = _dos_findnext(&f_block);
         printf("\nEnd of directory listing.\n");